Strength In Depth Key As United Batter Bolton
Rooney and Rio miss the short trip to the Reebok Stadium. United cope in scintillating fashion.
Bolton Wanderers 0-4 Manchester United
By Dan Salisbury-Jones.
Manchester United’s trip to Bolton was this weekend’s tea-time Premier League fixture. It was a bright sunny dusk in Lancashire which set the scene for this derby.
United went into the game with mixed news, buoyed by hearing of Kevin Phillips’ late equaliser against Arsenal at St Andrews, but disappointed by late injury concerns for both Rio Ferdinand and the Premier League’s top goal scorer Wayne Rooney, ruling them both out.
No sign of Owen Hargreaves today either, despite Sir Alex wanting to step up his recovery and involve him in first team duties.
The match kicked off with Manchester United in 2nd place after Chelsea thumped Villa 7-1 and so the reds had to follow suit with a statement of their own, without the irreplaceable Wayne Rooney it was surely to be a difficult task.
Indeed Bolton started with some gusto with Jack Wilshere pulling the first shot of the game wide after a minute, it was though never a threat to Edwin Van Der Sar’s goal.
The initial Bolton brightness was soon nullified though as United took complete control of possession, without really being too penetrative however. It was impossible not to notice the void left by Wayne Rooney’s absence.
After 13 minutes, the locals inside the Reebok raised the noise levels a little as Sam Ricketts launched in a long throw which resulted in a shot from Kevin Davies being blocked for a corner. Nothing came from it though and incidents were hard to come across in the early stages of this game.
Edwin Van Der Sar was the first of the keepers to make a save 2 minutes later, when a Bolton break ended with a shot from Johan Elmander. It was straight at the big Dutchman though and very easy to deal with.
United’s first meaningful effort didn’t come until 16 minutes in, when a delightful 40 yard ball from Ryan Giggs resulted in a Bolton defender putting the ball behind for a corner. The corner eventually reached Paul Scholes on the edge of the area who struck his shot over the bar.
Jussi Jaaskelainen was tested next, as good work from Darren Fletcher far down United’s right hand side enabled Dimitar Berbatov to guide the Scotsman’s cross with a right footed volley at the Bolton keeper’s near post. Jaaskelainen had to pull out a good stop and put it behind his own goal.
From the resulting corner came the best chance of the game so far when Berbatov at the edge of the area flicked the ball back towards goal, for Darren Fletcher to tee up Jonny Evans in a fantastic position with the goal gaping 8 yards out. The Northern Irish defender, who replaced Rio Ferdinand yesterday, lashed his shot over the bar when he would have hoped to at least test the Danish Goalkeeper.
Sir Alex Ferguson lost his temper next, after a collision between Patrice Evra and Sam Ricketts on the 20 minute mark. The Frenchman was first into the tackle between the 2, hammering the ball away, Sam Ricketts then caught Evra on the knee with his studs on his late arrival at the scene. Most would agree there was no intended malice from Ricketts.
Nemanja Vidic had to put in a last ditch block challenge to stop Bolton opening the scoring after 25 minutes. Johan Elmander flicked the ball on to the on-rushing Tamir Cohen who looked destined to give Van Der Sar problems, only for the big Serbian to stretch his leg out in front of the Bolton man, to knock the ball safely behind for a corner.
1 minute later, Johan Elmander was involved again after being threaded a delicious pass from Jack Wilshire (on loan from Arsenal). The striker was played in down the left hand side of the box, his shot from a tight angle had to be well saved by Edwin Van Der Sar low at his near post.
Patrice Evra seemed to recover well from his knock with Sam Ricketts, and the left back expressed this with a skill full and battling run into Bolton’s half past 3 players. He then gave the ball to Berbatov, who layed off Ryan Giggs, the Welshman’s first touch was imaculate and enabled him to get a shot away. His left footed strike from 25 yards out was curled over Jaaskelainen’s left hand post, never troubling and he would have wanted to do better.
The triangle in midfield of Scholes, Fletcher and Giggs was starting to prove too much for Bolton, who were struggling to get hold of the ball.
Chances though, were few and far between in the first half for United with Berbatov evidently working hard but without perhaps the bullishness of his injured strike partner.
Own goals have been a feature of United’s season, with plenty helping United in their title defence thus far.
Jay-Lloyd Samuel was to be the latest opposition player to put into his own net after 37 minutes. Ryan Giggs’ low cross from the left hand side looked fairly comfortable for the Bolton backline to deal with, only for the ex-Villa man to send the ball back across Jaaskelainen’s goal and nestle in the bottom corner.
Bolton initially reacted well to the embarrassing set back with Fabrice Muamba forcing a stunning save from Edwin Van Der Sar. The Bolton midfielder was fed the opportunity by the outstanding Wilshere who was involved in most good moves from the White men.
On the stroke of half time there was some more pressure from the home side for United to deal with, indeed an altercation between Van Der Sar and a Bolton player resulted in the Dutchman arguing his case off the pitch while Bolton took a corner, meaning he wasn’t even in his goal. United survived though and despite perhaps more incidents in front of their own goal than attacking wise, the reds looked in control, certainly from a possession perspective.
The second half was started brightly by United who looked to double their lead. A run early on from Dimitar Berbatov playing a 1,2 with Darren Fletcher looked certain to create the first fierce shot of the half only for Bulgarian striker to slip at the vital moment.
United’s build up play was beautiful this evening and that was highlighted by the next chance created. It started with Giggs on the right wing and ended with a shot with the outside of Fletcher’s boot that went wide of Jaaskelainen’s near post from 8 yards out and a narrow angle, the move though also involved Valencia and Berbatov, highlighting how as a team United were trying to pass Bolton to death.
56 minutes in saw a weak penalty claim for the home side. The returning Gary Cahill went to flick the ball over his head toward goal but it hit Paul Scholes on the arm, the United man though was protecting himself against Cahill’s high boot and it was more a shout from the fans than anything.
It did seem to give Bolton a little boost though and they carried on pressing, an example of this can be found after 58 mins when a cross had to be put behind his own by-line by Gary Neville. The corner though was easily dealt with, something United were coping well with, considering no other club in the Premier League has scored more goals from set pieces this season than the Wanderers. That stat is a warning though and with United just the 1 goal to the good they would hope to especially limit those opportunities.
The second half was progressing with United still well in control of possession and despite a few corners and breaks from the home side looked solid, Jonny Evans once again a very capable replacement for Rio Ferdinand, who like Wayne Rooney should be back for the trip to Munich on Tuesday.
After 68 minutes, United turned their control into a commanding 2-0 lead. Bolton were down to 10 men with Johan Elmander receiving treatment, after Nemanja Vidic led with an arm drawing plentiful blood from the Swede. United used their advantage in clinical fashion, with yet another beautiful passing move between Valencia, Giggs and Fletcher, ending with the Scotland captain striking from the edge of the area, Jaaskelainen parried the ball straight to Dimitar Berbatov, who gleefully pounced on the chance and calmly slotted home low beneath the Bolton keeper.
To be fair to Bolton, they reacted well once again to conceding with a nice move of their own, with Wilshere laying off Chi-Young Lee only for his shot from 20 yards to be deflected wide.
The 72nd minute saw 3 substitutions, 2 for Bolton with Ivan Klasnic and Matty Taylor replacing Tamir Cohen and a fairly lively Johan Elmander. For United, Paul Scholes departed after playing in his new found role of holding midfield and once again dominating with his superb movement and passing.
5 minutes later, United made it 3 with yet another beautifully crafted move, this time more individual brilliance from Nani, who on the left hand side of the box forced Sam Ricketts back towards his own goal before pulling the ball back across to Dimitar Berbatov, 6 yards out, who nonchalantly knocked the ball home with the outside of his boot through the legs of Zat Knight.
With 1 eye on Tuesday night for Sir Alex, Darren Fletcher departed to be replaced by Darren Gibson with 10 minutes to go.
1 minute later the latest sub made an instant impact after Berbatov had fed Nani down the left wing, the Portuguese international ran on before pulling the ball back to the middle of the box, where Darren Gibson fired in the 4th with the inside of his right boot off the underside of the cross bar.
Federico Macheda replaced Ryan Giggs in the 85th minute, the Welshman had put in a typically fine performance in only his second start of 2010.
United had to survive a couple more Bolton corners in the closing stages but it was a credit to United’s defence that the home side just didn’t look like scoring, even though as stated earlier, Owen Coyle’s side are prolific from set plays.
To sum up, United were just better in all departments, solid at the back, free flowing in midfield and Dimitar Berbatov putting in a Man of the Match worthy performance alone up front.
United’s passing yesterday was at times perhaps only comparable to a certain side in Spain, who also happen to be European champions. This is a message from the Premier League champions that will quell any suggestions they are a 1 man team.
The title race is heating up to boiling point, with Arsenal losing ground but at least 1 of United or Chelsea to drop points next weekend in the big one at Old Trafford between the 2. Sir Alex’s side do have the small matter of a Champions League quarter final in Munich to deal with on Tuesday though and thoughts at Old Trafford well and truly turn European until Wednesday.
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